Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2005   by Auto Service World

Countertalk: Electrical System Components

There is no doubt that the best way to reduce comebacks is through knowledge. This is as true of electrical system components–in such high demand this time of year–as it is of virtually every vehicle system.

It is also true, however, that electrical system components suffer from more than their fair share of unnecessary comebacks.

Unnecessary comebacks can be largely divided into three categories: misdiagnosis of the problem with the vehicle; misdiagnosis that there is a problem with the part; and sending the wrong part for the application. Only the first two generate a true warranty claim, though you might have to make a claim for the third if your error is coupled with an attempt to install the wrong part that ends up damaging the part.

For the first situation, however, the best example is when a weak battery goes undiagnosed, causing the technician (or more commonly the do-it-yourselfer) to replace the alternator. Then, of course, the battery still won’t be up to scratch and the customer will stand before you, smoking alternator in hand, asking for a remedy. What you do next is up to you and your store–most operations have a policy on how to deal with this situation, but most still offer a generous degree of goodwill. What is done with the second smoking alternator from the same customer is, however, not something that should be given goodwill.

Comebacks where there is nothing wrong with the part being returned have become an accepted part of the trade, which is unfortunate. An estimated one-third of all parts returned under warranty to the manufacturer or remanufacturer is discovered to be perfectly functional. This creates a tremendous amount of waste in the industry, not to mention a tremendous amount of wasted time and effort for your store.

In cases where a customer continually has a high return rate, you should consider making a special effort to train the technicians in his facility, and at the very least, inform him that you have noticed a pattern. He may not be aware that he has a higher warranty rate than other customers, so you should approach the topic carefully, with his interests in mind (“You’re doing a lot of reinstalls which must drive you crazy.”), even though you benefit too.

Recognize too, that it is unlikely that customers with a chronic problem will blame themselves. It is more likely that they will blame you or the brand you are carrying for multiple failures.

When you consider the cost that this can add to your business, and the sales it can drive away, it is worth taking the extra time to discuss the problem.


Question 1

All of the following are part of the charging system EXCEPT:

A) alternator

B) fusible link

C) battery

D) regulator

Question 2

Parts Specialist A says that a battery with a reading of 12.6 volts should be okay for use. Parts Specialist B says that an alternator should be charging at about 14 volts to keep a battery charged. Who is correct?

A) Parts Specialist A only

B) Parts Specialist B only

C) Both Parts Specialist A and B

D) Neither Parts Specialist A nor B

Question 3

Parts Specialist A says that the diodes on an alternator convert the AC current to DC current. Parts Specialist B says that the rectifier converts AC current to DC current. Who is correct?

A) Parts Specialist A only

B) Parts Specialist B only

C) Both Parts Specialist A and B

D) Neither Parts Specialist A nor B

Question 4

A customer calls with a no-crank problem on a Ford. He has already replaced the battery and the starter was replaced previously, but the problem remains. He says the alternator seems to be working fine. What could be the problem?

A) A non-functioning rectifier.

B) A blown main fuse.

C) Corroded battery cables.

D) A non-functioning starter.

Question 5

A fusible link is installed to:

A) Protect the electrical system from damaging current.

B) Control the amount of current flowing from the alternator.

C) Protect the alternator from short circuits.

D) Protect the ECU from short circuits.

Question 6

A customer has just returned an alternator for a warranty claim. You should do all of the following immediately EXCEPT:

A) Inspect the alternator for damage.

B) Ensure the Warranty Tag is filled out properly.

C) Send out a replacement unit.

D) Credit the customer’s account for the cost of the claim.

Question 7

Sometimes it is suggested that a technician install a relay in a starter circuit. Why?

A) To protect the starter motor from high current.

B) To ensure that the starter motor does not continue running.

C) To increase the current applied to the starter motor.

D) To sell more relays.

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